COMMENTARY: We are not living at the dawning of a new Age of Aquarius. We are more living in a necessary Dreamtime.
In the Aboriginal “Dreamtime,” people connect to their ancestral past and to truth. Today, civilized populations live in a Dreamtime in which there is no truth, and no personal responsibility for the world as it is. There are others to carry that burden.
It’s a simplistic cosmology populated with good guys and bad guys. It’s a philosophy that relieves believers of responsibility for the world as they find it; someone else has caused it; someone else will take care of it. Beliefs, dualisms, and fantasies govern this dream world, displacing blame and handing off problems to higher supernatural authority.
The world we live in is defined by constant tension and turmoil between believing and knowing. Beliefs simultaneously energize and constrain; they have been the foundation stones of all social contracts from the onset of human experience to this day. Many common belief systems are religious and imaginary projections of characteristics attributed to other belief systems, other individuals — “others” in general.
What people believe about anything or anyone often counts for more than what may or can actually be known or proven. Speaking to and stoking belief is a favorite tactic of politicians, demagogues, and despots. Scare people sufficiently and enough of them will follow you anywhere, even to war. History is a continuum of wars waged over beliefs.
Politicians peddle belief as much as clergy. Politicians pay pollsters sacks of money to determine what people believe and what they would believe. Politicians peddle what they learn back to you often via some well known “personality.” A lot of money and effort are spent crafting a believable Dreamtime pitch just for you, just for what you believe, just for what you want to believe.
For the most part, this works. Why? Because people generally want their beliefs affirmed, and when they hear it from a famous speaker they are validated. Demagogues are especially good at this form of salesmanship, holding a fat thumb on the scales of truth.
The belief/knowledge dualism is built into the humane psyche, with belief being, in all probability, the most foundational survival mechanism — one that cannot be extinguished. The dualisms of modern life mirror those of past times. Life and death, wealth and poverty, good and evil, peace and war, health and sickness, gain and loss, power and impotence, justice and injustice.
Fear is also belief, particularly with regard to mortality. The sixty-four-dollar question being, what happens after death? Belief in an afterlife, whether a welcoming host of heavenly angels with golden harps or a thousand virgins for every jihadist, is the anodyne of mortality. Belief in Heaven and Hell resolves the dualism of good and evil, providing the ultimate distribution of justice. Death is the only unequivocal answer to your questions.
We have to question, I believe, the life expectancy of belief systems foundational to any social contract, capitalist or otherwise, that would impoverish and leave jobless formerly middle-class people. In many communities across the United States, for example, there is no living wage employment in a vacuum left in the wake of businesses exiting for low-wage foreign countries — nothing left behind but mortgage foreclosures and food stamps. Ironically, many full-time workers are relying on food stamps, their wages being insufficient to feed their families.
In a final irony, some state legislatures and governors restrict or outright deny food stamps to those in need, often subjecting them to humiliating drug tests. The same is true with subsidized health care and unemployment benefits.
We must ask how much destructive inhumanity any social contract can withstand before erupting into rebellion. The long glide into a dystopian Dreamtime will not be anesthetized by watching Archie Bunker reruns. It’s going to be painful.
Emanuele Corso’s essays on politics, education, and the social contract have been published at NMPolitics.net, Light of New Mexico, Grassroots Press, World News Trust, Nation of Change, New Mexico Mercury and his own — siteseven.net. He taught Schools and Society at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he took his PhD. His bachelor’s was in mathematics. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, where he served as a combat crew officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He has been a member of the Carpenters and Joiners labor union, Local 314. He is presently working on a book: Belief Systems and the Social Contract. He can be reached at [email protected].